User Experience

For years the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines have help developers create a web experience that is more usable by people with disabilities. UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center is currently conducting research to determine if simplifying text can further help comprehension for people with cognitive disabilities.

The Shriver Center in conjunction with IBM, UMass Boston, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is working on this project, which will be the first to create clear steps that can be followed by people to simplify text. Moreover, it will be the first to leverage and develop the cognitive computing and natural-language processing of the supercomputer, IBM Watson, to automatically simplify text.

For more information read the Global Accessibility News Article.

WAI-ARIA provides semantics designed to allow an author to properly convey user interface behaviors and structural information to assistive technologies in document-level markup. WAI-ARIA 1.1 adds features to WAI-ARIA 1.0 to complete the HTML+ARIA accessibility model.

The new and updated working draft is open for review as they are looking for comments. WAI-ARIA 1.1 adds:

  • table roles and a model to distinguish tables from grids.
  • the “aria-roledescription” property to refine user understanding of roles.
  • changed applicability of “aria-readonly” and “aria-level”.
  • expanded explanation of “supported” vs. “required” states and properties.

Core Accessibility API Mappings (Core-AAM) and Accessible Name and Descriptions: Computation and API Mappings (AccName-AAM) provide support for the new WAI-ARIA 1.1 features as well as more complete accessibility API Mapping for other features. 

Yesterday Google announced improvements to Google Drive and all their editors: Docs, Sheet, Slides, Drawings, and Forms. Many of the changes are targeted specifically toward blind and low-vision users.

Among the changes are:

  • Improved screen reader support for Drive and Docs
    • Improved keyboard access
    • Support for zoom & high-contrast mode
    • Improved usability with the screen readers.
  • Improved screen reader support for Docs, Sheets, Slides Drawings and Forms
    • Support for alt text on images in Docs
    • Improved support for keyboard when editing charts & pivot tables in Sheets
    • Screen reader improvement including spelling suggestion, comments and revision history
    • Quick search of menus and ability to perform actions in Docs, Slide and Drawings.
  • Refreshable Braille display support
  • Step-by-step guides for screen readers and Braille display

Read more on the accessibility improvements. And see the Google Accessibility site.

AbleRoad allows users to comment and rank business on their accessibility using a five star rating system. AbleRoad worked with Yelp.com allowing both Yelp and AbleRoad ratings to be viewed on the same screen.

AbleRoad’s rating system is based on four main categories and twelve sub-categories. The four main categories are:

  • Mobility
  • Hearing
  • Site
  • Cognitive

The forty-eight distinct categories allows users to rate accessibility issues which include:

  • Path of Travel
  • Directional Signage
  • Captioning on TVs
  • Braille Information
  • Guide-Dog/Service Animal Access
  • Knowledgeable and Respectful Staff

AbleRoad also allows people to upload media and share on social media platforms. There is a badge system allowing users to rate each other and establish the trustworthiness of the source.

The new Vimeo HTML5 Player has added new accessibility features that improve the video experience for people with disabilities. Like with any product, some things could be improved to make the player more accessible and easier to use for people with disabilities.

The Disability Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) will focus on Cloud and Web Computing. The 3.7 million dollar project will be led by Carnegie Mellon University and sponsored by The U.S. Department of Education. The goal is to develop ways that enable people with disabilities to utilize all the resources available on the Internet.

The DRRP will include researchers at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

Aaron Steinfeld, team director and associate research professor and Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute said, “Our projects are focused on finding ways to create inclusive user experiences on the Internet.” He went on to explain, “There has been great progress over the years on Web accessibility standards and systems, but there is still a lot of work left to do.”

Read more on the project to improve web and cloud computing accessibility.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has published a document on Contacting Organization about Inaccessible Websites. The document gives three steps to report websites with accessibility issues:

  1. Identify key contacts
  2. Describe the problem
  3. Follow up as needed

The document stresses that website owners have many priorities for changes and improvements on their site and the more they hear about accessibility from users, the more likely it will become a priority. It further emphasizes considering what approach will get the best results stating that, “The tone of your emails, phone calls, and other communications will impact how people react and respond.” It suggests that assuming that the organization doesn’t know about the accessibility barriers on their website is the best first approach.

In research conducted by the University of Kansas, preschoolers with autism will use an iPad voice output app with their classmates. This will help determine whether the technology can improve deficits in communication, social reciprocity and play skills typical for children on the autism spectrum. Read more about the app for autism.

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